Session 1 – Unity in Diversity
Session 1 – Unity in Diversity
This is part one of a five part series written by USPG entitled Living with a World of Difference, celebrating diversity within the anglican community.

This is part one of a five part series written by USPG entitled Living with a World of Difference, celebrating diversity within the anglican community.

Opening Prayer

Hold a short time of silence together to still your minds and recall God’s presence, and then pray aloud together:

Lord, may we live, work and pray as one body in Christ;
do apart nothing which we can do together
and do together what we cannot do apart. Amen.
Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands

Key Text: 1 Peter 3:8-12


As its very name indicates the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is made up of three equal elements. The province includes three cultural streams, known as the Three Tikanga – the Maori, the Polynesian and the Pakeha (or European-descent) strands. There is a General Synod but each church has its own culturally contextual ways of governing, decisionmaking, ministerial training and liturgy. There are three Primates who share authority. The decision to create a Three Tikanga church came to fruition in 1992 in order to formally recognise these three very different but intrinsic parts and the importance of the particular expression of Anglicanism within each, from their own context.

The church’s constitution states that it is required to “maintain the right of every person to choose any particular cultural expression of the faith”. Te Hāhi Mihinare ki Aotearoa, or Te Pīhopatanga o Aotearoa is the Maori Anglican Church; Tikanga Pasefika is the Polynesian Anglican Church and Tikanga Pakeha is the Pakeha Anglican Church. For a long time, this church has bravely confronted and welcomed both the challenge and joy of its diversity. Each church has contextually appropriate methods of structure, authority, decision making and liturgical expression which highlight and embrace all parts and define a new way of being a whole church. Their bravery and dedication to their togetherness, both in celebrating and not ignoring difference, is a striking witness in the Communion.

One of the three primates, Archbishop Fereimi Cama of Polynesia, reflects on his part of the province and the importance of celebrating unity in diversity:

Story from Polynesia

As I think about the words of 1 Peter 3:8-12, one thing is clear: sympathy and selfishness cannot co-exist. As long the self is the most important thing in the world, there can be no such thing as sympathy because sympathy depends on the willingness to forget self and to identify oneself with the pains and sorrows of others. Here Peter talks about brotherly love and the matter goes back to the words of Jesus: ‘A new commandment I give to you… that you love one another as I have loved you’.

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is a three Tikanga church. It comprises Tikanga Maori, Tikanga Pakeha and Tikanga Polynesia and that in itself is quite diverse. We have different contexts, cultures and languages and sometimes our relationship is tested because of these differences, but because of our love for God, we strive to work together and celebrate our unity in diversity.

The Diocese of Polynesia is made up of four major people groups: Fijian, Indo-Fijian, Tongan and Samoan. We have different cultures and different languages and it is always a challenge trying to accommodate the needs and aspirations of everyone. In the last ten years the distribution of our clergy has been by local ethnicity and I am hoping to change that. We would like to rotate the clergy among the four ethnic communities within the three countries. This will enable them to understand the context, the culture and the language of our people in the Diocese of Polynesia. This is not going to be an easy exercise, but if they adhere to what Peter is saying about working in unity with the spirit of sympathy, with a tender heart and a humble mind, we will be able to bridge the gaps that have existed amongst our people over the years.

Despite the diverse nature of the Diocese of Polynesia, we have been able to co-exist with each other. We respect and celebrate our unity in diversity. As Jesus said, we need to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength – and love our neighbours as we love ourselves.

Bible Reading

1 Peter 3:8-12

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called – that you might inherit a blessing. For ‘Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit; let them turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’


Closing Prayer

Pray the Lord’s Prayer aloud, inviting each person to choose their preferred language.

Have a time of silence, followed by an opportunity to pray aloud any issues that have arisen during the session. Conclude by praying aloud together:

Almighty God,
whose will it is that all should be saved
and come to the knowledge of the truth;
send forth labourers into the harvest,
that all may know you,
the one true God,
and Jesus Christ whom you sent,
our only Lord and Saviour. Amen.
Anglican Missions Board of the Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia